Thank god for screw tops -
My parents always told me to go hiking with a friend. Various safety reasons of course. What they failed to tell me was that the friend does more than just keep you alive, they remind you to bring the church key.
A satirical look at what not to do when camping alone, in the dark, dark woods.
Now that the hobby electronics business is up and running, I have a lot of free time in the evenings (and some time afternoons) to do stuff. Hiking, biking, flying. The crazy days of business do have some benefits. I have been wanting to do a good summer hike ever since my ex-girlfriend, Kat, and I got back from Yellowstone. Well she's in San Francisco. So I need one of my buddies to come along.
The problem with hiking is that to do a good hike you have to camp over night. This means that the buddy has to be able to be free the following morning for the drive home. Unfortunately, all my friends work 9-5s. We tried scheduling a trip on the weekend, but Rocky Mountain National Park gets crazy busy, and we've already filled our summer weekends with other fun things.
So it's just me. I had all the equipment anyways. I don't need a hiking partner...
I made it out of Boulder around 2:45. Made it to the RMNP ranger station by 4:15. I knew I wanted to start from Fern Lake Trailhead, and I knew I needed a backcountry permit. $15 later, I was ready to park my car for the night at the trail head and start out.
At 4:45 I am locking up the car and I notice a few mosquitoes. Hmm. I remember bugs being a big problem in the summer in the mountains. Hmm. Bug repellant is in the camping box back at the house. Hmm.
No matter, I can survive a few bites. I don't know how heavy the pack was, but it was more than usual. I had to carry the entire tent, fuel, stove, cooking gear, etc. Which is normally split between, you know, you and your hiking partner.
I really hate the sweaty feet feeling you get from hiking boots so I started the hike in sandals. Chacos to be specific. I've had numerous friends comment how comfy they were. So much so, you could even "hike in them".
It's relatively flat up to The Pool. I passed a few obvious day hikers, families, and a couple that asked if I had bug repellant, "You're going to need it."
"It's in the pack" - I say, not wanting to admit my fault. I'll be fine I think - and continue on.
The Pool - All pictures were taken the morning after on the walk out.
The ranger named Wendi who I had purchased the permit from had told me that the afternoon showers were finished and there was a 30% chance of showers that night. The clouds looked a little scary, but I knew better of Colorado weather. It can look down right ominous, and barely drizzle. She had also told me to remember to take a right directly after The Pool to get to Fern Lake Campground. She had made the mistake of missing the turn and ended up at ?. Take a right after The Pool. No problem.
I made it to The Pool very quickly - 1.7 miles in. This is where my friend Talmage and I had turned back a few months previous. No big deal. The water is WAY up. Lots of rain. The rain clouds where turning white, blocking the sun. This helped keep the heat down. The sign says it is another 2.1 miles to the camp site. I continued on and passed a few hikers - I am looking for the right turn.
Does the water seem a little... I don't know. Frothy?
The trail goes up, the pack gets heavy. I make it to a sign post. Hmm, no Fern Lake Campsite. There is Bear Creek (or something) in .7 miles, 1.0 miles back to The Pool, but no Fern Lake. Great! I did exactly what the ranger told me not to do. So I tromp back down to The Pool adding a nice 2.0 mile walk to what should have been a good 3.8 mile walk in. A partner would have been there to at least make fun of you. Instead, I just had to think about my idiocy - all the way back down.
At this point my feet have got some serious blisters. Not the small kind on your ankle, but the big juicy kind on the bottoms of both feet. Sandals my ass. Time to put on the shoes. Just normal sneakers, I hate sweaty feet remember?
This is me attempting to take a picture of my own foot in the middle of a rain storm inside a little tent. That would be the aforementioned mother of all blisters.
So I am back on track! 2.1 miles to the campsite and I am moving. I pass more people coming down. One man in particular - "You've got bug repellant I hope!"
"Yes I do. Why? Is it bad up there?" - I know the answer, I am really just happier in denial.
"It's really doesn't get any better up there. I couldn't even stop to take a break." - Joy! I thank him and move on.
The Fern Falls are amazing! Wow! Who know that there was crazy stuff like this so close to the trailhead? The sound was deafening. And the breeze coming off the falls was just enough to keep the mosquitoes away.
I pass more people coming down and cannot stop thinking about how good the one beer I brought with me is going to taste. I sweat normally, and with an extra 40ish pounds, I am drenched. But I can't stop - too many... Never mind.
I make it to the campsite with one spot left open. I drop my pack and prepare for the fun that is about to unfold. There is an infestation of the little devils. Mosquitoes have been bad on past hikes, but this was crazy. Thankfully, I was still a little looney from the hike up. It was funny really. The second you stopped moving, they were all over your legs, arms, hands, back (through your shirt). I found bites in my hair days later.
Changing into pants and a long sleeve shirt helped. If the materials became tight (shoulders, bent knees) then the misquotes got through. They really enjoyed my face. Luckily, I brought my Gortex jacket that had a hood. The extra layer paid off and the weather was cool enough the jacket was just right. I quickly discovered that the black net that held the cooking pots together also doubled as a head net. I must have looked really scary with a thick black net over my head.
Time for food! Oh, and the token beer. But wait. I left the bottle opener along with my extra keys in the car. No! A hiking partner would have helped remember the church key. In desperation I try twisting the top off. Oh wait. It is a twist off. Whahoo! It's go time.
Dinner was composed of some reconstituted dried mashed potatoes, creamy Thai noodles, and some pork that I had been marinating for a few days. I brought a lot of pork! Wow, no more white meat for me for a few days.
Just as the pork is finishing cooking, I notice it is getting dark rather fast. Hmm. Then a sprinkle. Then a few sprinkles... I retreat to the tent with my pork. The rain comes down for awhile. Mmmm, really good food! I set the pan with the left over pork juice out in the rain to wash it. Nothing gets too extremely wet. Way to go Eureka! tent!
It rained. A lot.
After the rain stops, I step out to see the damage. Not bad! The misquotes are gone. Oh wait. Not really. And the pan is now full of yellow stuff. Congeal pork fat! Yippee!
It's dark now and because of the rain everything is REALLY dark. I can't stop thinking about scary movies, ie - The Blair Witch Project. I tromp over to the stream (100ish yards away) in the pitch black with my head lamp on to try to wash out the pan. Hah! Yea right. Trying to wash cold pork fat out with cold stream water. Now I've just got pork fat ALL OVER MY HANDS. It's like I am a Texan who's never been in the mountains before - "Sure! Let's do swine!" Think, big hungry bears...
Each campsite is supposed to have a food locker (see above). A big ammo box with some screws - they work very well. According to Wendi the ranger, my locker was located a ways from my campsite towards the Privy - the forest shitter.
Turns out someone else thought it was their food locker, so there is already some really good smelling coffee in there. Oh well, I stash my food in and head back to my tent with the greasy pan. Remember, most of these pictures were taken the day after - it's pitch black for most of this story.
One good way to get rid of grease is to heat it up! I start the stove back up with some help from my little friend - fire paste. It's great, you squeeze it on anything (cold stoves, green wood, wet socks), apply a match, and the stuff burns like crazy. The stove is acting a little weird - possibly because I forgot to top off the fuel. Hmm. My partner was supposed to bring the extra tank.
So the stove is chugging away. I get some water in the pan nice and toasty and wash the thing out far away from the tent (still pitch black). I can't really get it clean because it's not as simple as some grease, there's some stuff burnt to the bottom as well. "Sure! Let's do swine!"
I resolve to putting the pan in the food locker. "Sorry buddy" as I stash my somewhat greasy pan next to his bag of food and nice smelling coffee.
It was about damn time to go back to the tent for some sleep. My upper back muscles have never felt this painful. And my feet where screaming. I wanted hot chocolate but I decided not to press my luck. Guess I'll have to wait for the morning...
So the following morning was a little brighter, and a little warmer. The mosquitoes where still out to kill, but the camping stove decided to behave so I got to start the morning with Strawberries and Cream oatmeal and some super thick hot-chocolate. I am sure I had a mosquito or four in there as well.
Packing up and throwing on the backpack reminded me just how much walking I had done the day before. Snapped a picture. Not to worry, it was all down hill from here.
Snow along the rim of Fern Lake.
The bridge at Fern Lake
The lake is a pretty good size. I doesn't show in this picture. Mostly I wanted to catch the mountains - or lack there of.
The huge trees just outside the campsites.
I think there was supposed to be a squirrel in that picture. But then again, he was supposed to sit still as well.
Isn't macro mode fun?
That would be why all of the Boulderites are a little jumpy right now. Many of the smaller creeks and Boulder creek have been shut down because the water is so high.
This was neat. There was a big roaring creek on one side of the trail.
And there was another not 30 yards on the other side of the trail.
The bridge crossing Fern Creek.
Who is it that gets the job of carrying all that lumber here? Not me!
So this is The Pool on the way out. It is much nicer in person.
The creek tumbled all the way down. The water was moving incredibly fast.
So that was the great white hike. Not too crazy, but it had its moments. I would be happy to do another hike. This time with a partner capable of carrying a lot of stuff, including a large bottle of repellant and a church key.